MONTGOMERY, Ala.: Alabama Chief Justice Roy Moore was removed from the bench Friday for defying the U.S. Supreme Court on gay marriage, more than a decade after he was ousted for disobeying a federal order to take down a 2½-ton monument to the Ten Commandments.
The nine-member Alabama Court of the Judiciary suspended Moore for the remainder of his term. Although the court stopped short of outright removing him as they did in 2003, the punishment has the same effect, ending his period as Alabama’s top jurist.
The judiciary court ruled that Moore defied law already clearly settled by the high court’s Obergefell vs. Hodges ruling when he told Alabama’s probate judges six months later that they were still bound by a 2015 state court order to deny marriage licenses to gays and lesbians.
“Beyond question, at the time he issued the January 6, 2016, order, Chief Justice Roy Moore knew about Obergefell and its clear holding that the United States Constitution protects the right of same-sex couples to marry,” the court wrote in the unanimous decision.
They said Moore also flouted a federal judge’s order that enjoined the judges from enforcing Alabama’s same-sex marriage ban after the Supreme Court’s decision.
The 50-page decision indicated that a majority of justices wanted to completely remove Moore, not just suspend him without pay, but they lacked unanimous agreement.
Moore told the Associated Press in a telephone interview that he was shocked by the decision.
“I think it’s clear it was politically motivated,” he said.
In a separate statement, Moore called his removal “a politically motivated effort by radical homosexual and transgender groups to remove me as chief justice of the Supreme Court because of outspoken opposition to their immoral agenda.”
With Moore’s punishment, leaders of two of Alabama’s three branches of government have been removed for ethics violations this year, and a third is possible. The Republican House speaker was removed this summer. A legislative committee is weighing whether Gov. Robert Bentley should be impeached over a scandal involving a top aide.
The president of the civil rights organization that filed complaints against Moore in 2003 and 2016 praised the decision as a victory for the state.